Russia was credited with averting a US strike on Syria by proposing that President Bashar Al-Assad give up his arsenal of chemical weapons. Now its actions in Ukraine risk diverting international attention away from the daily cycle of bloodshed in Syria.
Some observers suggest that Russia’s actions have given Assad’s forces time to regroup and gather strength. Russia and Syria have deep political, historical and cultural ties. Russian arms exports to Syria were worth $1 billion in 2011, and have been crucial in propping up the army.
Moscow has provided important economic support, and wrote off around 70 percent of Syria’s $13 billion debt to Moscow in 2005. Strategically, the Syrian port of Tartous serves as Russia’s only outpost in the Mediterranean, saving the Russian Navy long journeys across the Black Sea.
But intentionally or otherwise, has Russia’s intervention in Ukraine pushed Syria off the top of the international agenda and into the background?
Presenter: Mike Hanna
Mahjoob Zweiri – a professor of modern and contemporary history of the Middle East at Qatar University
Alexander Shumilin – head of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Middle East Conflicts
Mark Kimmitt – a former US assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East